Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Baloch are not Al-Qaeda

Don't jump the gun

REPORTS on Friday told of calm prevailing in Sui area with no fresh incident of firing or rocket attack during the last 48 hours. Meanwhile the lady doctor who was assaulted has been medically examined and the tribunal appointed to conduct the probe has directed her to appear before it on January 17. The statements emanating from Baloch leaders, particularly Nawab Akbar Bugti, indicate they are trying to avoid adding fuel to the fire. One had thought this an ideal time to match restraint with restraint, and resolve the issue through political dialogue. The reports of fresh troops being dispatched to Sui with helicopter gunships hovering all over the area however cause foreboding. One can understand the need to provide security to the Sui installations which are a highly valuable national asset. But stationing troops permanently for this is both impracticable and shows bad governance. The most reliable guarantee for the security of important national installations is a local population that believes their safety to be vital for their own well being and prosperity. Any military action is bound to revive the bitter memories of the 1970s and drive the sense of deprivation much deeper. With an alienated population living all around, no army can safeguard the installations, the present ones or those being visualised for the future, over a long period.
Anybody who believes that the Baloch can be cowed down by display of power or threatening statements is unaware of their history. Those who think military action would improve the situation could ignite a tinderbox it would be difficult to put down. Any military operation would weaken the position of pro-Government Baloch politicians and those who have bade goodbye to parochialism to become a part of the mainstream politics. Mir Zafarullah Jamali has maintained with much reason that Balochis are not presently fighting for separation but their rights. A leader of the BNP, which supports the PML government, has warned of all out resistance if a military operation is unleashed. Practically every Baloch parliamentarian in the opposition has predicted that an operation would set the province afire. The action would in fact be widely resented not only in Balochistan but throughout the country. The opposition is already demanding a joint session of Parliament to debate the issue. Any military action would be treated as a black chapter in the country's history.
Unfortunately lawlessness is not confined to Balochistan alone. The judges kidnapped in Sindh last month and have not yet been recovered. Two days back 11 WAPDA employees working in Rajanpur were abducted by armed men. Last year the convoy of Corps Commander Karachi was attacked in broad daylight with heavy loss of life. Attempts were made on the President twice in Punjab. The people of Sui are as much Pakistani citizens as those living in Islamabad, Lahore or Karachi. Selecting Balochistan for a military operation would thus be highly discriminatory. The action will have international implications. Anybody who thinks an operation would be ignored would find he was seriously mistaken. The Baloch are not Al-Qaeda.


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